Movie Review: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001)

KabhiKhushiKabhiGham3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (“Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness“) may not be the best movie ever, but it certainly is the most movie ever. Those able to embrace the film’s excesses are rewarded with non-stop entertainment.

From the outset, K3G (the film’s popular nickname) establishes familial love as its theme. The movie opens with a wealthy man, Yash Raichand (Amitabh Bachchan), talking about the particular affection a father feels for his child. Yash’s wife, Nandini (Jaya Bachchan), stresses the unconditional nature of motherly love. They smile as they talk about their pride and joy: their son, Rahul (Shahrukh Khan). Cut to a portrait of the happy family.

Wait, who’s that other kid in the picture? The one they didn’t bother to mention? It’s their younger son, Rohan, who is a complete afterthought in his parents’ eyes.

Yash and Nandini adopted Rahul as a baby, after having trouble conceiving. When Nandini unexpectedly became pregnant with Rohan nine years later, they continued to focus all of their parental affection on Rahul, leaving young Rohan to make due with hugs from the Raichand family maid, Daijan (Farida Jalal).

Yet when Rahul is disowned for falling for a working-class gal named Anjali (Kajol), it falls on poor Rohan to try to reunite his family. He does so willingly, despite being the acknowledged second-favorite of his parents’ two kids.

Fortunately, the years spent carrying that chip on his shoulder have molded adult Rohan into an Adonis, played by Hrithik Roshan. He takes his prep school education and sleeveless shirts and heads to England to find his estranged brother.

Rohan’s quest is aided by his former childhood nemesis: Anjali’s younger sister, Pooja (Kareena Kapoor). The minute grown up Pooja is introduced, everyone else in K3G ceases to matter, because Kapoor’s fabulousness outshines them all.

Adult Pooja is the queen bee of her college, sneering at the girls and smugly brushing off the boys she deems too lowly for her to date. She’s so damned popular that she can go by the nickname “Poo” without people laughing in her face. Her wardrobe is made up exclusively of hotpants, fur shrugs, and tops that are basically a cocktail napkin held in place by a shoelace.

It cannot be overstated how amazing Poo is. Everything she does is over the top. No character has every been as bratty yet lovable. Kapoor commits to Poo’s outrageousness, and the results are hilarious.

London is where the character relationships in K3G are at their best. Shahrukh and Kajol are even more charming as a married couple then they are in the early stages of Rahul and Anjali’s relationship. Rahul and Poo banter sweetly as he acts as her protective older brother. Poo’s romantic advances toward Rohan are as funny as his rebuffs.

There are a couple of negative aspects to K3G. First is the incessant fat-shaming of young Rohan (Kavish Majmudar). Young Rahul (played by Shahrukh Khan’s son, Aryan) calls his little brother “fat” in every conversation he has with Rohan as a boy. Other members of the household join in, too, as do young Pooja and her pint-sized cronies. When adult Rahul realizes that the hunky guy who’s been living with him under false pretenses is his long-lost brother, the first thing he asks Rohan is how he lost so much weight.

Then there’s the creepy relationship between patriarch Yash and Naina (Rani Mukerji), the woman he’s chosen for Rahul to marry. Naina is all kinds of fabulous, in her sparkly backless dresses and midriff-baring tops. Yash is way too touchy-feely with Naina, and she only makes it worse by singing a sultry, Marilyn Monroe-style rendition of “Happy Birthday” to her would-be father-in-law.

Yet all can be forgiven thanks to the movie’s endearing absurdity, including a song that features Shahrukh dancing in front of the pyramids while sporting see-though shirts, and then pawing at Kajol while wearing various all-leather outfits. When characters aren’t celebrating, they are crying. There is so much celebrating, so much crying, and you just have to roll with the whole experience. Keep that mindset throughout Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… and you are guaranteed a great time.

Links

  • Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… at Wikipedia
  • Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… at IMDb
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15 thoughts on “Movie Review: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001)

  1. julialmoore

    I am shocked, SHOCKED, that you have not reviewed this before now. It was one of the first Bollywood movies I ever saw and cemented my love for all kinds of things. It is one of the go-to movies I recommend to new viewers!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      This was one of the first Bollywood movies, I saw, too, Julia! Since I watched it back before I started writing about Hindi films, reviewing it wasn’t a big priority. Now that it’s back on Netflix, hopefully a new generation of Bollywood fans will get to experience the wonder that is K3G.

      Reply
  2. Liz Signorelli Moore

    I really liked this movie for the acting, the music, and the dancing, but some of it is so over the top it’s hard to watch. I had a completely different reaction to Pooja–I couldn’t stand her most of the time. I don’t think we can call out Rahul’s mesh shirts unless we also mention Rohan’s awful disco attire. I have other problems with the plot besides the ones you mention. I find it hard to believe Rahul doesn’t recognize his brother after 10 years despite the makeover. I wish Yash had gotten his come-uppance for totally disregarding the pain he was causing his family in keeping Rahul away. But I loved Rahul and Angeli, both courting and married. Farida Jalal is one of my favorite actresses. And the references to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai are cute. It was definitely worth watching.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      The costumes, Liz. My god. πŸ™‚ I love that the movie’s costume director is Manish Malhotra, who’s a big time fashion designer. It’s like Karan told him, “Use this movie to get all your worst instincts out of your system.”

      Reply
  3. Anushka

    I dislike this movie, I have never been able to finish the film. It is so melodramatic, over the top and full of weeping. The worst part for me though was the unbearably poor acting from Kareena(probably the worst I have ever seen) and shrieking from Kajol. The songs are the saving grace.

    Reply
  4. Deepak C.

    So glad you reviewed this, and even happier that you liked it. Through the years this has emerged through thick and thin as my favorite Bollywood movie. Not necessarily the best, but in terms of pure entertainment value, it’s second to none in my honest opinion (and that’s saying a lot, since it has Hrithik before he learned how to act).

    Reply
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  7. Toni Bishop

    I’ve just rewatched this movie (again) while on a Hindi film kick this weekend, and I have a question. Are we supposed to think that Rahul told Anjali about his father’s approval before he married her? Or after? The timeline between the funeral and wedding is clearly tight (I don’t think it’s the same day, but obviously it’s soon afterwards) and I wonder when that conversation would have taken place? I know Karan Johar talks on the DVD or somewhere about different ideas for filming the wedding scene, but does he ever mention this? Not that this story grants its female characters a lot of agency; when their love interest turns up, these women tend to melt. And Anjali is desolate. So it probably doesn’t matter, she would still have married Rahul. But in the next scene where we see the hissy fit, I mean stern denunciation that Yash throws down, I can’t quite tell if Anjali is supposed to be surprised. Despite flaws (which you have clearly laid out, Kathy — and the “fatty” comments are even more grating upon rewatching) I do love this film. I agree too with other posters that Poo is not my favorite character, and I have to look away from most of Rohan’s party gear. Still, it is grand in its scope somehow, which is its great charm.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Hi, Toni! It’s been long enough since I watched this that I can’t comment on the scene you mentioned specifically. Maybe someone else has some thoughts. All the characters seem to be operate under the “love is not a choice” umbrella, which sort of renders agency moot. From what I recall, even poor old Naina immediately commits to remaining single forever since she will never, ever be able to love anyone besides Rahul.

      As for your feelings about Poo, just know that my brain has a filter that interprets any negative comments about her as, “Yes, Kathy, I also think that Poo is the greatest character in the history of cinema.” So, yay, we agree! πŸ˜‰

      Reply
      1. Toni Bishop

        Funny, I have a really similar filter, which interprets any criticism of Hrithik Roshan’s acting chops in this era as “Yes, Toni, I agree he is a fantastic dancer and all around charmer, no question!” So I get your point exactly. πŸ™‚

        Reply
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